LOS ANGELES: While American actor Zoe Saldana and her husband Italian director Marco Perego have been married since 2013, “The Absence of Eden” is the first film the couple has worked on together and focuses on immigration, an issue near and dear to them both.

Saldana's grandparents immigrated to New Jersey from the Dominican Republic following civil unrest, while Perego was born in Italy and later became a U.S. citizen.

"I'm a woman of color and my children also are children of color and they're sons of an immigrant as well, so you always think about those shoulda, coulda, woulda, what if?," Saldana said.

"I think living in that sort of hypothetical, unimaginable sort of place is what compelled Marco and myself to want to add something to this conversation."

The Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment thriller film directed by Perego focuses on a migrant woman named Esmee played by Saldana trying to escape a ruthless cartel and set up a new life in the United States. It also digs into the conflicted life of Shipp, an ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent working on the border, played by American Garrett Hedlund.

Throughout Esmee's journey, she encounters many struggles that some immigrants face, ranging from child trafficking and sexual abuse to families being torn apart.

“The Absence of Eden” opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, arriving in a year in which immigration and high numbers of migrant arrivals over the U.S.-Mexico border have become a top political issue ahead of the 2024 elections in November.

Hedlund hopes the film will resonate with people even if they don’t have a connection to the immigrant experience.

"What I hope people will take away from it is relatability, is to watch it and either those who aren't aware, or have never been through this situation, can learn and it can be an education piece of sorts,” Hedlund said.

Similarly, Saldana wants people to learn about the severity of the immigrant experience without holding back.

"All the dark sides also of immigration, whether it's legal or illegal, we're talking about sex traffic, children traffic, like these are things that are happening every day whether we talk about it or not,” Saldana said.

For her, it is important for the film to address the larger dangers of xenophobia.

“They're happening and I think that by us not talking enough about it, we forget about the human aspect of this complex conversation," she said, "and I think it's important to just understand that these are just people.”